Nigella

Nigella sativa
Ranunculaceae, Buttercup Family
Nigella flower and seed pod
Nigella flower and seed pod
When a farmer plows for planting, does he plow continually? Does he keep on breaking up and working the soil? When he has leveled the surface, does he not sow caraway [nigella] and scatter cumin?
Isaiah 28:24-25
Nigella flower and seed pod
Caraway [nigella] is beaten out with a rod, and cumin with a stick...All this also comes from the Lord Almighty, whose plan is wonderful, whose wisdom is magnificent.
Isaiah 28:27, 29

Cultural Information

TypeHerbs & Spices
Height15 to 18 inches
Soilwell-drained
Exposurefull sun
Leavesfeathery, dill-like, medium green, giving an airy or misty appearance
Flowerspunctuated center of curled pistils, densely-packed stamens with black anther tips, surrounded by five-pointed petals which open to form flowery stars, usually light blue
Fruitseed pods form from flower centers, about the size of a pecan - tough capsules containing a multitude of black edible seeds

Planting Tips

  • sow seeds in spring after frost
  • blooms late spring through early fall
  • make successive sowings for a more continuous bloom in the garden
  • southern gardens with warm enough winters can also plant in fall
  • delicate plants don't always transplant well, so scatter seeds in place or start seedlings in plantable pots
  • reported to reseed vigorously, so deadhead if you don't plan on saving seeds

Garden to Table

  • Nigella flowers, related to Nigella damascena or love-in-a-mist, make lovely, dainty cut flowers so be sure to grow more than enough for vases and seed gathering
  • To save seeds, place seed pods in a paper bag. Hang bag in a warm, shaded location to fully dry for several weeks. Rub the bag between hands (or beat with a rod, Isaiah 28:27) to loosen seeds from pods, then tear corner from the bag and pour seeds through strainer into airtight container
  • Toast seeds lightly for maximum flavor and aroma
  • Add to breads, rice or grain side dishes, or steamed vegetables
  • Look for Nigella in Middle Eastern recipes

Additional Resources

See Blog Posts on Nigella
Isaiah reminded readers of the detailed differences  in harvesting the spice seeds versus grain kernels such as wheat and barley. Of the vast needs and intimate details of all his glorious creation, the Lord knows.
-from the NIV God's Word for Gardeners Bible
Nigella flower and seed pod
Caraway [nigella] is beaten out with a rod, and cumin with a stick...All this also comes from the Lord Almighty, whose plan is wonderful, whose wisdom is magnificent.
Isaiah 28:27, 29

Photo Credits

© Fomaa | Dreamstime.com - Nigella Flower With A Bud On The Wooden Table Closeup Photo
© 2014 Shelley S. Cramm Nigella seeds named for their black color ready for sowing
© 2014 Shelley S. Cramm Nigella seedlings at three weeks old show the plant's daintiness already
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